Being the first in a planned Twilight series of observations and ruminations on the state of the world and its denizens, past, present and future.
Return On Investment: As ye sow, so shall ye reap.
When I was a teenager, I drove a 1924 Star. It rattled, creaked, squeaked, clinked, clanked, banged, jangled, clattered and protested mightily when called upon to actually move, but it did get me to school and an occasional jaunt into the countryside. We had to scrounge up old tires and spare parts, even machining some pieces in shop class, since Durant Motors was long out of business. Keeping it on the road became increasingly difficult and complicated. I finally decided it wasn’t worth the time, money and cussing. It might have had some value to an antique auto collector, but it had a negative ROI as a useful means of transportation. As I look around, a great deal of what I see reminds me of that old car.
There are a lot of individual pieces that need to work together. And they aren’t.
The business world is still functioning – after a fashion – but it’s making unseemly noises and requires more attention and palliative care .
The financial world has decreed that wealth consists of debt – and has descended into a Ponzi scheme of Hot Potato, where the final debt-holder is the ultimate loser who can’t find a buyer for the debt he holds.
The political machine is beginning to sound like mating linotypes colliding with a freight train, with equivalent effectiveness.
The energy business is slipping to meager or even negative ROI, but does still manage to deplete water resources (and pollute what it doesn’t deplete), not to mention contributing to the home repair industry by increasing the frequency and severity of earthquakes.
“We owe everything to six inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains.”
And Big Agriculture is:
Increasing production but polluting public health in the process;
Using bad farming practices which lose topsoil much faster than Nature can replace it;
Depleting watertables that will take millennia to replenish;
Altering habitats destructively, which has been happening since Columbus.
Healthcare is increasingly dysfunctional, despite scientific and technical advances, because any gains in the process are siphoned off to the owners instead of being passed on to consumers.
Foreign Policy resembles someone stumbling through an obstacle course in the dark – and the course is situated in a minefield.
Military adventurism is bumping up against the hard reality of opposition groups that refuse to roll over and play dead on command.
Social relations are becoming more and more ‘virtual’, distant from real person-to-person contact. (Even Facebook limits to 5000 ‘friends’. How many flesh-friends do you have?)
Morality is being radicalized as authoritarian fundamentalists clamor to control female bodies, police everyone’s bedrooms and mandate religious brainwashing of the young.
Ecology is truly screwed, with Global Warming already far enough along to make weather more erratic and destructive; loss of habitat endangering many species; pollution sickening or killing most remaining species, including homo sapiens sapiens (a oxymoron if there ever was one).
John Michael Greer put out a book last year, titled Decline and Fall. Like the view in Strauss & Howe Fourth Turning, Greer argues that we are at one of history’s cyclical crisis points, when all our chickens are coming home to roost, whether we like it or not, whether we’re ready or not.
One thing that got my attention was his view that the current stage consists of a diffusion of power rather than a concentration of power, the end stage of the process Polybius called ‘anacyclosis’, by which a society progresses Monarchy, Aristocracy, Democracy. In more modern terms, Dictator, Junta, Democracy. He notes that we all know we don’t have the power to control things. We all take it for granted that someone, somewhere has power. There’s argument as to who that someone is – the 1%, the .1%, the MIC, Big Ag, Big Pharma, Israel, Freemasons, NSA/CIA/FBI/DHS, the Rothchilds, etc. – but we all assume someone is calling the shots. And we further assume – from abundant evidence – that we are not intended or destined to be the beneficiaries of whatever good might come down the road, although we’re likely to be the victims of whatever bad is in store.
His point is that power has become scattered into numerous different and often competing centers. Each has some ‘veto power’ to protect it’s own turf but neither power enough or motive to use that power for anything other than its own survival and welfare. The F35 is a perfect example of the MIC preserving it’s position and wealth instead of producing something putatively useful. The plethora of financial derivatives, divorced from anything of actual inherent value, is an example of the financial industry feathering its nest and their anti-regulation lobbying exercises illustrate their power to protect themselves. Our wars in the Middle East are examples of the American Empire protecting it’s privileged position re petrodollar, puppet regimes and resource pillaging. Not to mention our wars – overt and covert – in Central and South America and elsewhere, since Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
The American Empire, Experiment, Shining City On A Hill – whatever you want to call it – is coming to an end. And it is an much-repeated historical process. Whether such processes are anyone’s “fault”, whether they are inevitable, whether they can be avoided, sidetracked, prevented, alleviated or derailed doesn’t really seem to be a meaningful question. Despite the fingerpointing by Right and Left, despite the conspiracy theories and scientific studies, despite the clamor of religious fanatics of every flavor (and militant atheists), despite the hopes and dreams of billions of people,
It’s been happening for thousands of years.
It will probably keep happening as long as humanity exists.
Get over it and get on with your life.
While empires and countries, tribes and cultures have their own agenda, strengths and weaknesses, each and every one of us will face the future on a personal level, with whatever skills, knowledge, wisdom and values we bring to the table. Unless we are hermits, we’ll face it in the company of others – family, friends, colleagues, casual acquaintances. Out of simple respect for ourselves and out of our common humanity, it behooves us to try to understand where we are, how we got here and where we’re headed.
There are three things a man must learn:
Who he is.
Where he comes from.
Why he is here.
…to be continued…
Right On Steeleweed…, Write On
and I have been reading Greer’s The Long Descent on the daily commute to the job. It was written nearly ten years ago…., and the focus was on Peak Oil and how we would live as it slowly runs out. Today we need to figure out how we can live…, and keep it in the ground. It won’t be easy by any measure.